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All-State awaits: Dillingham students compete in statewide music festival

Dillingham Middle/High School band teach Jon Bell chats with percussionist Ellie Hank
Christina McDermott
Dillingham Middle/High School band teach Jon Bell chats with percussionist Ellie Hink during practice. May 5, 2023.

Dillingham’s music room is down a long hallway, just past the gym. The reverb of basketballs gives way to drums, horns and wind instruments, and soon, you’re enveloped by music.

Throughout the year, the band performs at concerts and ceremonies, pep rallies and sendoffs, and competes at festivals. On Thursday four Dillingham students, Ellie Hink, Dante Luckhurst, Ana Nick and Adalgisa Reigh, will fly to Alaska’s statewide music competition.

Hink plays percussion, including the xylophone. She was one of the students who auditioned at the regional festival in Unalakleet last month.

“It's where a few of the schools in Region One traveled… and just play individual concerts and a concert with all the schools involved,” she said. “And then it's also a place that we can try out for solos.”

Saxophone player Luckhurst was taking a break at the competition when he learned he qualified for state.

“They woke me up from a nap and they're like, ‘Yeah, you qualify,’ and I was like, ‘Really?’” he said, his deadpan description making the other students laugh.

Students will perform solos in front of a judge and an audience on May 12 and 13. They’ll aim to earn a Division 1 rating, which Dillingham’s band teacher Jon Bell said that’s like getting an A+. Judges will also give feedback to help students improve. At the end of the day, each judge will select the student they think performed best to play at a special concert, the Command Performance, that evening.

Dillingham musicians will each play the solo they auditioned with last month, with Hank on the xylophone, Luckhurst, the alto saxophone, Nick, the clarinet and Reigh the flute.

It took a lot of practice for the musicians to get to this point. Clarinet player Nick said students who are just beginning shouldn’t be discouraged if they start out struggling.

“When you first start, it's not going to sound good. You just have to keep going,” she said.

For these students, practice has paid off.

Students play in the Dillingham band. May 5, 2023.
Christina McDermott
Students play in the Dillingham band. May 5, 2023.

Get in touch with the author at or 907-842-2200.

Christina McDermott began reporting for KDLG, Dillingham’s NPR member station, in March 2023. Previously, she worked with KCBX News in San Luis Obispo, California, where she focused on local news and cultural stories. She’s passionate about producing evocative, sound-rich work that informs and connects the public.